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Tracking Inmates and Locating Staff with Active Radio-Frequency Identification (RFID): Early Lessons Learned in One U.S. Correctional Facility

NCJ Number
Date Published
June 2010
62 pages
This report presents early lessons learned from the field drawn from the experiences of corrections institutions that have obtained and/or implemented active radio frequency identification (RFID) technology.
The primary goals of this research were to: 1) identify and describe all of the United States correctional institutions that have purchased and/or installed active radio frequency identification (RFID) systems; and 2) provide an objective source of information about the advantages and the challenges of using RFID in correctional settings. Managing correctional populations is a challenging and expensive task for State and local jurisdictions. In recent years, RFID, a tool used to track inmates and pinpoint the location of staff in duress situations, has been offered to jurisdictions as a method of improving the efficiency and effectiveness of correctional management. This technology consists of a device (or "tag") that emits radio wave signals within a network of sensors, receivers and monitors that record and display the tag's unique identity and location. This information can then be displayed on computer monitors and prompt alerts if one of any number of preprogrammed conditions is triggered. The location information is archived so it can be played back later for use in post-incident investigations. To date, most information about how well RFID technology works and its cost-effectiveness has been produced by the product vendors - a source with a vested interest in promoting the adoption of RFID. Given the significant expense of purchasing and the cost of operating the technology, the findings of this report are expected to benefit State and local jurisdictions in that it presents some the early lessons learned from jurisdictions already using RFID technology.

Date Published: June 1, 2010